CHARLOTTE — Despite being the lower seed, the Charlotte Checkers had a chance to take control of their first-round Calder Cup playoff series with two games at home to start the playoffs. So far, so good.
The Checkers shut out the Chicago Wolves 4-0 in Game 1 of the Central Division Semifinals on Thursday night at Bojangles Coliseum. Tom McCollum stopped all 20 shots he faced in the contest and was named first star of the game.
The Checkers and Wolves began the first period on a physical note, exchanging shots and blows. McCollum made a rebound save early into the first that could have led to a Chicago goal but the game remained scoreless. After a penalty expired, Brendan Woods potted a goal off a rebound shot from Trevor Carrick at the 8:33 mark of the period to put the Checkers up one. McCollum and Wolves goalie Ville Husso stood tall through the remainder of the period and the score remained 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
The Checkers and Wolves began the second period playing four-on-four hockey after roughing penalties to Charlotte’s Valentin Zykov and Chicago’s Kenny Agostino at the end of the first period. The early part of the second period consisted of neutral zone play and blown whistles. The Checkers took a 2-0 lead at the 12:16 mark of the period after Andrew Miller fed a beautiful cross-crease pass to Lucas Wallmark who tapped it in. Wallmark recorded four assists against the Wolves during the regular season but this was his first goal against Charlotte.
McCollum was not tested during the period, except for a point blank stop on Wolves center Andrew Friesen with around two minutes to go in the period. The Wolves only managed to get off six shots in the second period.
The Wolves woke up early in the third period, applying sustained pressure in the Checkers defensive zone. Andrej Nestrasil managed to spring away on the breakaway around the 13 minute mark but was blanked by Husso. Patrick Brown managed to get off a point blank shot around the 8:30 mark of the period but Husso was there again.
Finally, Andrew Miller secured the win for the Checkers with a snipe from the left circle that deflected off a stick and past Husso’s stick side. After Husso was pulled for the extra attacker, Wallmark scored the empty netter and his second goal of the game.
The Checkers’ last win against the Wolves was March 25th as Kris Newbury scored the game winner in the shootout to give Charlotte the 3-2 win. Husso suffered his first loss of the season against Charlotte, after going a perfect 4-0 in the regular season. Game 2 of the series is Friday at Bojangles Coliseum at 7:15 p.m.